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Need-to Know Tips for Dancers: Flexibility Fundamentals

Celebrities such as Strictly Come Dancing judge and successful chorographer Craig Revel Horwood make it look so easy, but as any professional dancer knows, there is a tremendous amount of practise needed to move with seemingly effortless grace.

The first thing that anyone who takes dance seriously needs to learn is flexibility i.e. the widest range of movement that each joint is capable of, along with muscle length. This guide offers key advice to get you on track.

Understanding Flexibility Limitations

Just as there are millions of different body shapes, flexibility varies a great deal from person to person. Some seem to naturally have limber joints and muscles, while others need to work at extending their flexibility through intensive stretching exercises. These are the factors which limit flexibility:

Internal:

  • Bony structures that limit movement
  • Muscle tissue elasticity
  • Muscle ability to relax and contract
  • Resistance within a joint
  • Skin elasticity
  • Temperature of joints and associated tissues
  • Tendon and ligament elasticity.

External:

  • Age
  • Ability to perform a particular movement
  • Clothing restrictions
  • Commitment to improving flexibility
  • Degree of stressed or injured joints and muscles
  • Gender (females tend to be more limber than males)
  • Room or studio temperature
  • Time of day i.e. people tend to be more flexible in the early afternoon.

Flexibility Types Explained

Several factors contribute to overall flexibility. Both internal and external factors can influence the amount of flexibility you are able to obtain. Every individual however can improve their flexibility by understanding the fundamentals.

There are three main types of flexibility, and all need to be worked on to reach your best potential as a dancer:

Static Passive Flexibility

This term relates to the ability to move your body into an extended position and maintain that position using your weight, body, and additional support such as a chair or a bar to hold onto. An example would be doing the splits.

Static Active Flexibility

Static active flexibility is the most challenging, since it describes the ability to hold an extended position using just your body muscles without supporting objects. Examples include stretching your leg to the side then keeping it there. Yoga is good for developing this type of flexibility as you learn to hold poses while breathing evenly.

Dynamic Flexibility

Good dynamic flexibility is highly important for dancers, since it describes the range of motion you are capable of when in motion. For example, your legs use dynamic flexibility to reach during a split leap.

Key Stretching Techniques

There are four fundamental techniques of stretching to develop your flexibility:

  • Ballistic - repetitive bouncing movements. However do be careful with this method as it can cause injury to dancers.
  • Dynamic - exaggerated movements in a controlled manner, including warm-up exercises.
  • Static - holding stretches (causing mild discomfort) for a certain length of time. Most dance teachers suggest 15-30 seconds.
  • Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) - using a partner to help you contract and relax your muscles, such as a person holding your leg while you actively hold force against them for a few seconds, followed by you relaxing your leg muscle for 10 seconds.

Conclusion

While we can't all look as fluidly suave as when Craig Revel Horwood glides across a dance floor, the above tips will help you boost your flexibility so that your dance vastly improves. A final tip is to always to remember to breathe deeply and slowly when performing stretch exercises - this will boost your flexibility by helping your body to relax, delivering more oxygen to your muscles to improve blood flow and removing lactic acid which causes stiffness.

Information Share By Craig Revel Horwood .

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